By Orin Davidson
Whether it is the senior or the junior team, there is a recurring theme with the national squads representing the United States in overseas competition.
A combination of poor fitness and flawed strategy is robbing the country of the level of success you would expect from the talent available to this country’s cricket decision makers.
It happened in New Zealand with the junior team and it is the main reason the senior team is staring down the barrel of elimination in the World Group Five playoffs in Nepal.
Having dropped a crucial game to Singapore on Wednesday, the United States finds itself in a must- win situation in their final clash against Nepal on Friday (Thursday night Eastern Time) to qualify for promotion to the higher Group Four level.
Any result other than a victory would be considered a complete failure by the US on the their month- long tour of the Middle East, following their unsuccessful run in the Twenty20 World Cup qualifiers in the UAE.
But the team has to improve its poor strategy in team selection which is making matters worse as according to the reports from Nepal and the UAE, a lack of fitness among many players is clearly visible.
The United States of America Cricket Association hopefully is looking and learning.
Those tactical flaws have to be corrected for this vital last round robin game as the players’ stamina cannot be remedied overnight.
The batting was an abject failure against Singapore, and to a lesser extent the bowling and field which shows that the grind of four matches in five days is having a telling effect on unfit bodies.
A batting lineup reshuffle is badly needed for Friday, in the circumstances .
For all his success in the past, Sushil Nadkarnie has been a failure in all his matches in both competitions in UAE and Nepal and should be omitted simply because it seems the effects of his Achilles Heel injury are severely limiting him.
He should make way for Clain Williams who has been made into a tourist by virtue of him not being selected for any of the games. Williams will be fresh, is also younger than Nadkarni and is twice a better fielder.
Solidity at the top of the order by the openers is a must which is why the decision to continue using Orlando Baker in the opening slot and the mysterious demotion of Carl Wright against Singapore is beyond comprehension.
Baker is much more effective in the middle when the ball is older, as the team has discovered in Rashard Marshall who was normally used at the top in the past.
Also Aditya Thyagarajan is being wasted at numbers seven and six. He has been the team’s most consistent batsman over the last two years in all types of conditions and must be promoted to the top four. Even it means swapping places with captain Steve Massiah who has been struggling all tour long. His 50 made on Thursday was his most recent example, coming off a marathon 98 balls. At the same time Sudesh Dhaniram is not a worthy choice at number five. Dhaniram at 42 years old has outlived his usefulness as a batsman and should be played in this team solely as a spinner. He has been doing very well with the ball and thus should be dropped down into the tail.
Hopefully, the U.S. could be motivated enough to have the adrenaline flowing for this one last charge to win on Friday, to guarantee a top two finish for the Group Four promotion, as from all appearances many of the players’ stamina has disappeared. Which is not surprising as according to sources none of the players present in Florida for the trials late last year, passed the Coopers Fitness test administered during the weekend trials there.
This lack of stamina and the grind associated with competing day to day at a higher level, cost the team two years ago in their last Group Five competition appearance and also five years ago in Ireland at the World Cup qualifiers.
Some of the players from those two failed campaigns are in the current squad and if they can’t appreciate the importance of fitness now , they never will. This experience should also hammer home to USACA the necessity of having meaningful training camps for all teams entering international competition.
And the players too would do well to acquire training programs to work with all year long.
Excuses cannot be tolerated as the resource personnel is readily available.